Editor’s note: Every month, the team at Ravenwood Health posts about a mental-health topic. This month, Kim Pirnat, Billing Supervisor, opens up about her journey as a parent – with all its twists and turns. She’s learned that at every stage of the game, it’s OK to reach out for help when needed. 

By Kim Pirnat, Billing Supervisor

I am a mom of two active boys ages 14 and 12. Throughout every stage of their lives, I have thought to myself that the next stage will be easier. Guess what? All these years into this amazing journey, I’ve come to realize that no stage of life is easy. Every age comes with its unique challenges, and as parents, we do the best we can on a day-to-day basis. However, coming to terms with the fact that I’m doing the best I can isn’t always easy.

Being a parent comes with a lot of emotions and various stages. When you first have a baby there is a lot of worry. Is everything OK? Is the baby developing normally? Am I doing things right? As I learned along the way there isn’t one right way to do any of it. You have to figure out what works best for your family as everyone is different. With my first, I was constantly worried and with my second son, I realized that the decisions we made were the right ones for our family and not to worry about all the “advice” people would share.

As we moved into our toddler and preschool years I was consumed with guilt. Being a working mom is hard, but I never realized how hard until I did it. I would feel guilty for not having more time with the kids. I would feel guilty that they were at daycare all day. I would worry if I was playing with them and if they were getting everything they needed. As time went on, I realized they were developing their own personality, making friends, and learning new skills at school. These were things they would miss if they weren’t at school and I learned to give myself grace. We would make the most of our evenings, weekends, and days off and learned to find that balance.

As the boys entered grade school it became easier to work and watch them grow. I was lucky to be able to be home when they got home and I loved hearing about their day, what they learned, and who they played with at recess. At this point I started worrying if they were fitting in at school—are they wearing the right clothes? Having the right kind of birthday parties? After some time I realized that the key was letting the kids figure out who they were—the sooner they felt comfortable choosing their own style and being who they were the better it would be. They learned to let things go and that if someone said something mean, then that person probably isn’t really their friend. We also learned that sometimes you have to turn down a party invitation or not attend an event. You simply can’t do it all.

We moved into middle school and had our struggles. As a matter of fact, I felt like we hit a wall. One of my sons that had always done well in elementary school was struggling with organization, changing classes, and I didn’t know how to fix it. This was a completely foreign thing to me as we had never encountered this and I felt lost. I talked with the teachers, the guidance counselor, and also talked to a friend who is a therapist. Again—a major surprise, but this is a natural progression. Not every kid transitions from being in one classroom to moving around all day easily and that is ok. The school worked with us and we found things that would work to make it better. The problem didn’t go away, but we learned how to work through it.

Now I have one in high school and I think to myself, “How in the world did we get here?” How did all this time go by so quickly? Before I know it, he will be looking at colleges or careers.” I don’t care what path my kids choose for their lives as long as they are happy. For my oldest, that will probably mean college. For my youngest—probably some kind of job working with his hands. However, it has taken this journey through motherhood, through worries, guilt, and wonder to realize that at the end of the day their happiness and well-being is the important thing.

Every stage of their lives comes with challenges, but also with amazing things to celebrate. When the kids are little, it is easy to find things to celebrate—first steps, first words, and first birthdays. However, don’t forget to continue those celebrations as they get older. Celebrate a good day, a great test, or a day without an attitude.

No one ever told me being a mom would be so difficult. However, it is the best thing I’ve ever done. Yes, there are crazy stressful days, but there are also amazing moments and the chance to see them grow into decent, caring human beings. At the end of the day, a little love and a lot of patience go a long way. As parents, we need to learn to give ourselves grace and remember there will be bad days and good days, but hopefully, along the way, there are more good than bad. Most importantly, when things are difficult, remember it’s OK to ask for help. We don’t think twice about taking them to the doctor when they have a fever so why do we worry about asking for help in other ways? Ask the teacher for suggestions, reach out to the guidance counselor, or seek help from a community-based organization. We aren’t given an instruction book for raising our kids, but there are people out there who can help us along the way. Enjoy each day and all the adventure that comes with it.

My favorite book at the moment is FISH: A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results by Stephen C. Lundin.

My favorite kid book is, Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I’m a big believer in reading to your kids and having them read to you.